Samantha Brown knows travel.
After spending more than a decade at Travel Channel, living in airports, hotels and out of a suitcase, Brown now juggles her intense travel schedule with the demands of motherhood. Traveling on your own is easy; traveling with twin toddlers is a whole other story. Speaking with her today prior to her appearance at the Chicago Travel & Adventure Show this weekend, Brown shared her tips to traveling with kids and the best way she’s found to avoid the airplane meltdown.
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse. When you are hauling one child (nevertheless two) through an airport with all of the gear that goes with them, you need a plan. And not one that is formed as you are entering the security line. Brown and her husband have taken time to physically rehearse who is carrying what, folding what, asking for assistance, in which pockets the laptops, liquids and everything else that needs to be removed from their bags is packed, and (most important) who is physically responsible for the children. When you have streamlined a process and know which person is responsible for each part (even going as far as standing in your kitchen or living room and actually DOING everything that needs to be done to see if it works), you can avoid massive calamities – and potential arguments – getting through security or at the baggage claim. Brown recommends that when your children get older, rehearse the security line with your kids – and every step involved – so the fear of the unknown is lessened and they will know what to expect.
Bring the car seat. Brown is an advocate for bringing your own car seat on the airplane for as long as your children will sit in it. For a few reasons: 1) because children are comfortable and familiar with their seats, so any flight stress they might experience will be lessened in a “comfy place”; 2) She knows and trust her equipment as opposed to rental car or car service equipment; and 3) She can’t imagine a child as young as 2 without a car seat, so for her it makes more sense.
The dollar bins are your best friend. Small action figures, toy cars, playing cards, stickers, coloring books and crayons are all things that you can pick up in the dollar bin. Brown recommends being over-prepared to keep your kids occupied on a plane – and not just with technology items. She has different stages for their level of restlessness, with snacks being the ultimate boredom-buster. For herself too. She says, “Everyone is a toddler on a plane. Whatever you are going to need on a long-haul plane trip, your child is going to need. Times three.” Tip from Samantha: A plastic cup with a lid, straw and ice cubes that most flight attendants have is a great boredom buster for kids!
Sometimes there is nothing you can do, especially with babies. When I asked Brown about her thoughts on the recent story of parents who handed out earplugs and treats to passengers sitting around them and their baby on a flight, she loved the idea. Developing a sense of community with the people around you on a flight typically makes the flight go smoother – for everyone!
Don’t make it the first time your kids have seen a plane. Model planes, books, images on the internet, cartoons, whatever resource you can find to show your child what a plane looks like, how it works, and how exciting your trip is going to be will all help to make the entire process familiar to them. Children tend to be frightened of what they don’t know or have never seen before. Don’t let the first time they have seen an airplane be AT the airport.
Large families can travel too. Brown recommends cruises and resorts as easy and most-bang-for-your-buck ways that large families with a wide range of ages can still travel, have something fun for everyone, and have a great time. Still too far out of your budget? Brown loves YMCA Summer Camps for families. They are weekend getaways where you can rent a cabin for your family and take part in all of the activities that the camp has to offer. The costs are minimal, since you are usually driving and bringing some of your own food, with most meals and lodging being included in the price.
The 11th Annual Chicago Travel & Adventure Show is where travel lovers come for travel inspiration, expert information and fun, cultural interaction. Samantha Brown will be a Keynote Speaker on both Saturday and Sunday, talking about “Travel: Then and Now” and sharing her thoughts on what technology is really useful for travel. For more information on how to attend the Chicago Travel & Adventure Show and see Samantha Brown, check out the website at travelshows.com/chicago.